Medal for seaman killed so close to safe return after war

The Northern Echo: WAR MEDAL:Copy of photograph of George Anderson of Spennymoor who has been posthumously awarded the Arctic Star.    Picture: ANDY LAMB WAR MEDAL:Copy of photograph of George Anderson of Spennymoor who has been posthumously awarded the Arctic Star. Picture: ANDY LAMB

TWO sisters have spoken of their pride after completing a set of World War II service medals for the father they never knew.

Merchant Navy Officer Lieutenant Commander George Anderson died on the eve of VE Day when his ship was sunk by a German submarine off the Scottish coast.

The 36-year-old, from Tudhoe, near Spennymoor, County Durham, was the chief engineer onboard SS Avondale Park and one of two men killed when the ship was brought down in the last U boat attack of the war.

His daughters, Pamela Harper and Celia Turnbull, never got to know their father as they were just three-years- old and six-months-old at the time.

But now they have a full set of service medals in recognition of his wartime service after he was posthumously awarded the Arctic Star which recognises the severe conditions experienced during the Arctic Convoys which shipped vital supplies to Russia.

He was also awarded the 1939 to 1945 Star, The War Medal, Atlantic Star, Africa Star and North Africa Clasp.

Mrs Harper, 72, of Spennymoor, said: “He is probably one of the last ones to get the Arctic Star.

“It is a great honour, we didn’t know him but we are very proud of him.”

Mrs Turnbull, 69, of Thornley, said: “The truth is we don’t know much about what he did but the efforts of the merchant navy shouldn’t be overlooked, they kept the country alive.

“Thousands of men in the merchant navy and fishing fleets were killed during the wars and Winston Churchill described the Arctic Convoys as the worst journey in the world.”

Their father’s 2,800 ton liberty cargo ship had sailed out of Methil, on the Firth of Forth, to join a convoy when it was hit by a torpedo from U boat U2336 at 10.40pm on May 7, 1945.

When he surrendered, the German submarine’s captain claimed not to have received orders three days earlier to end hostilities.

Mrs Harper said: “Father chose marine training because he didn’t want to work in mining.

“When they married, our parents moved to Newport, in Wales, but he would be called up when war broke out and she came back to Spennymoor to be with family.

“Mother and the family were sitting down for a community tea to celebrate VE Day when a vicar told her the news.

“We just got used to not having a father, we had a mother and she died in 1954 and was never able to speak about it.”

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